Will Middlebrooks, 3B Boston Red Sox
Height: 6-4, Weight: 200
Will Middlebrooks was the Boston Red Sox 5th round pick of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Liberty-Eylau High School in Texarkana, Texas. In his senior year he hit Hit .555 with 5 HR, 22 Doubles, 48 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 38 games. These impressive stats won him the honor of being selected as short stop on the Texas High School Baseball Northern All Star team. Since his signing Middlebrooks has added enough weight to be forced off of SS but just enough not to negatively effect his range as a third baseman. Middlebrooks is young and has great power potential especially at Fenway Park, he hits the ball hard to all fields. One of many reasons he ranked 58° in Baseball Instinct’s 360° list.
Here’s a little bit of what we had to say about him:
58°. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox, 9/9/1988 – Middlebrooks’ best tools are his power and arm, both of which rate a plus. His hitting ability isn’t too bad either judging by his triple slash line he put up in AA/AAA this year of .285/.328/.506. However of concern is his strikeouts (114k in 439ab, 465pa) and low bb:k ratio (26:114). But to give him credit he has improved his strikeout rate over the past four years from around 30% to 25%.
Not much has changed to changed in the past month to change those opinions. Instead, lets give you a little be more of a scouting report one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system and the closest in the system to making a 3B debut for the Sawks.
Middlebrooks has plus bat speed at this point and hits the ball to all fields. The bat speed translated to power away mostly at this point in his career. But its not a case of him not being able to pull pitches. When he’s going at his best, the line drive stroke through the zone plays better away and up the middle and where he’s gotten in trouble with strikeouts is trying to get loft on inside pitches. He cuts through the hitting zone on inside pitches with an upward plane but has yet to generate true loft. Loft is a skill that is very rarely a natural talent and is most often one of the last things to be learned by true professional hitters. He’s very aggressive, not working deep enough into counts. A factor driven by his ability to cover a lot of the zone with a swing path that is conducive using the field away. Middlebrooks will definitely need to improve his plate discipline if he’s to be the major league stud that many think he will be. Working counts into his favor in order to use the pull side of the field, especially in Fenway is going to be of utmost importance to his next step in the evolution of a AL East 3B.
Middlebrooks has worked hard to become solid defensively with a well better than average arm often bordering on plus. As a High School SS he has held the premium athleticism and is very light on his feet. He has good anticipation and reacts well to smashes to third while staying square to the ball. Overall he is projects to be a above average defender around a 55-60 on the scouting scale at one of the hardest positions in baseball. He’s a big kid and his range could use improvement to the glove side with work on his throwing on the move. All polish factors at this point.
Middlebrooks is knocking on the door in Boston, but there isn’t going to be anyone answering while the Greek God of Walks is blocking him at 3B. He could use additional time at Triple-A to develop the final elements of his swing and that seems the most liekly case of the 2012 season for him.
For a power hitting 3B that does in fact have that premium power potential, we could look past the higher level K rate if he was able to force more walks. But the lack of bb% on a 3 year down trend is an alarming factor. 2009 11.2% is upper level good. 2010 a drop to 7.5% is barely acceptable. 2011 it dropped to 5.2%, a level that is going to give Middlebrooks trouble in the majors. Advanced pitching is going to expose this weakness and he’s going to need to make the adjustments or his AVG could lag in the .250-.260 range.
If he can make the adjustments this season in Pawtucket, I see him as a .280 hitter with a the potential for 30 HR seasons and full time starter defense at 3B.
With Youkilis showing signs of being mortal and has a big dollar option on the table for 2013. So the Red Sox have 2012 to determine if Middlebrooks is going to be the guy who displaces Youkilis in Boston.
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